Middle-East peace talks begin as "partners in peace" meet in Washington; Crucial independent sides with Labor in Australian negotiations; China urges jumpstart of six party talks on North Korea; Recession cuts illegal immigration to US; and more
Top of the Agenda: Israeli-Palestinian Direct Talks Begin
Israeli and Palestinian leaders are set to begin direct peace negotiations (NYT) after US President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday night at the White House. The talks are to take place at the State Department with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Netanyahu and Abbas were resolute in responding to Hamas' killing of four Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Both leaders said the attack should not derail negotiations, and the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II attended as part of the administration's effort to include regional security guarantees for Israel to accept the creation of a Palestinian state (WashPost). Netanyahu called Abbas his "partner in peace" but said any deal must ensure Israel's security. Abbas said he would try to overcome the "difficulties we're going to face tomorrow," suggesting he'd demand that Netanyahu freeze settlement activity in the West Bank early in the talks.
One stumbling block to talks is the exclusion of Hamas (BBC), which controls the Gaza Strip but is not recognized by the United States and EU. As a result, Abbas, a rival of Hamas, will be negotiating in the talks over territory he does not control.
In the Washington Post, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley say Mideast talks are lopsided, because Palestinians have "no robust central authority." Their territory is divided between the West Bank and Gaza, so Palestinians would find it hard to implement an agreement.
In the National Post, Jonathan Kay says compared to a decade ago, Abbas "now presides over a territory that has many of the hallmarks of statehood," making the current round of negotiations more legitimate.
Listen to CFR expert Robert Danin discuss the resumption of direct talks, the agenda for today's meeting in Washington, and the likely implications of these talks.
This CFR Crisis Guide examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
PACIFIC RIM: South Korean Nuclear Envoy Heads to US
Australia: One of four key independent lawmakers pledged to support Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (FT) in her bid to form a new government, leaving her two seats short of the majority she needs to end political gridlock.
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org